LEWISTON — Almost two dozen area veterans from World War II to Iraq received the State of Maine Silver Star Honorable Service Medal in a ceremony at the Lewiston Armory on Saturday.
They were all former prisoners of war and/or recipients of the Purple Heart. In addition to formal presentations to those in attendance, several of the awards were accepted by wives or relatives.
Lots of video and hundreds of photos were taken by proud friends and relatives. Each recipient posed for pictures with Brig. Gen. John W. “Bill” Libby, adjutant general of the Maine National Guard.
Peter W. Ogden, director of Maine Veterans’ Services, said the medals are being given to nearly 1,000 Maine veterans in similar ceremonies throughout the state. Authorization and funding came recently from the Maine Legislature.
Each medal is imprinted with five stars, representing the five military branches and 16 representations for the counties of Maine, Ogden said. The recipient’s name and service information is on the back and each medal is on a ribbon. Certificates were given with the medals.
“It is very inspiring to be in the midst of so many who have sacrificed so much,” said Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert, a Vietnam veteran.
“You represent cherished history and friendships of long ago and exceptional service to our country,” he said.
Pfc. Maurice Daigle of Lewiston was one of the soldiers taken prisoner by the German army in World War II. He recalled hiding under hay in a barn in France with two buddies when German soldiers came through the barn stabbing their bayonets into the hay. The Americans were found and Daigle spent about six months in a German prison camp.
Daigle thought his comrades were deceased, but he was reunited with one of them in Michigan after 53 years.
Lt. Col. George C. Benjamin of Auburn, 93, was wounded in Germany in September 1944. Attending the ceremony with him was his wife, the former Ruth Sylvester of Auburn, who was a Red Cross nurse and was evacuated from an area at the Yalu River when Chinese troops crossed into North Korea in 1950.
Another medal recipient was Laurence Jordan of Poland, who was wounded in Austria. He said he was seriously injured just four days before the war ended as the result of a German bazooka shell and a gunshot wound to the jaw. Jordan is one of seven brothers who served in World War II in both the European and Pacific theaters.
Former prisoners of war receiving medals were Pfc. Elmer L. Beaulieu, Lewiston; Sgt. Edward C. Bikulcius, Lewiston; 2nd Lt. Arthur E. Cooper, Freeport; Pfc. Maurice Daigle, Lewiston; Pfc. Aime J. Foisy, Auburn; Staff Sgt. Armand L. Madore, Auburn; Pvt. Ange J. Nadeau, Lewiston; Pfc. Jean A. Perron, Lewiston; Sgt. Maj. Albert R. Tobin, Lisbon Falls; Pvt. Lionel L. Tremblay, Lewiston; and Sgt. Gaston C. Gauthier, Lewiston. All were prisons in Germany except Gauthier, who was a North Korean prisoner.
Purple Heart recipients who were given the new State of Maine Silver Star Honorable Service Medal for service in World War II were T/5 Thomas Asselin, Lewiston (wounded in the Pacific region); Sgt. Camille J. Bard, Lewiston (Burma); Col. George C. Benjamin, Auburn (Germany); FC3/c Roland A. Booker, Lisbon (Philippines); Staff Sgt. Fernand F. Caux, Lewiston (Pacific);
Also, Sgt. Roland F. Chalifoux, Lewiston (Germany); Pfc. Marcel N. Charest, Lewiston (Italy); Pfc. Leo J. Derocher, Lewiston (Belgium); Pfc. Marcel C. Dulac, Lewiston (France); T/4 Laurence T. Jordan, Poland (Austria); Pfc. Laurier G. Mailhot, Lewiston (Europe); Pfc. Christo J. Simones, Lewiston (Italy); Pvt. Rene L. Therriault, Lewiston (Germany); and Pfc. Alan R. Thurston, Lewiston (North Africa).
Korean War recipients who have Purple Heart medals are Pfc. Normand G. Boucher, Auburn; Pfc. Ronald G. O’Brion, Auburn; Sgt. Albert E. Pepin, Lewiston; and Sgt. Edward Turgeon, Lewiston.
Vietnam War recipients who have Purple Heart medals are Cpl. Joseph A. Derosier, Lewiston; Pvt. John J. Houle, Poland; PSG James L. Lawlor Jr., Auburn; Spc. 4 Milko Moczara, Lisbon Falls; BM2 Harold W. Small, Turner; Sgt. Stephen A. Spooner, Auburn; Spc. 4 Marcel P. St Pierre, Auburn; Cpl. Paul J. St Pierre, Lewiston; and Sgt. Robert J. Tapley, Lisbon.
Honored for service in recent wars were Staff Sgt. Christian J. Kaplinger, Lewiston (Saudi Arabia); Sgt. Robert T. Smith, Mechanic Falls (Iraq); and SSG Norman E. Voter, Auburn (Iraq).
Unable to attend but receiving medals were Pvt. Conrad J. Poisson, Lewiston; Pfc. Roger A. Poulin, Auburn; Pfc. Albert Lemke, Turner; Cpl. Richard A. Chisholm, Auburn; Cpl. Herbert C. Coburn, Auburn; Pfc. Jean P. LeBrun, Lewiston; Pfc.William S. Prescott Army, Auburn; Cpl. Ronald W. Voter, Auburn; Sgt. Charles F. Breton, Mechanic Falls; HMC Thomas M. Brooks, Lewiston; Cpl. Richard R. Dube, Lewiston
Spc. 4 Rene E. Dubois, Lisbon; HM1 Frederick H. Giese, Lisbon Falls; Pfc. Charles E. Hatch, Lewiston; Sgt. Jean P. LeBrun Jr., Turner; Pvt. Michael L. Nadeau, Turner; Spc. 4 John A. Silvia, Poland; and Spc. 4 Robert O. Wing, Lewiston.